Ashling, Mickie B. “Horizons” (Horizons #1), Dreamspinner Press, 2013.
Clark Stevens is a popular wide receiver who has a contract with an NFL team within touch but he is having problems. His girlfriend is showing signs of jealousy; his father is controlling and Clark is having trouble paying attention. He also feels a sense of attraction to the trauma doctor, Jody Williams, who has treated him for a broken arm and senses that he is getting signals from Clark. He is interested in Clark and he sees that the feeling is mutual. Jody knows what to do but is afraid of Clark’s reaction. Both men know that it is hard to be a gay athlete in the world of pro sports. Clark has sat on his sexuality for a long time and now he reaches the point that he has to either hide who he is and not deal with the life he has been forced by society to live or gamble on a life with Jody.
Mickie Ashling first published this book in 2009 but a lot has changed since then. She has now updated the story to reflect those changes. Jody immediately realizes that it is not just Clark’s arm that is broken—he senses the pain the athlete feels—his father has pressured him to be a great ball player and ignores his son’s attention deficit disorder. He treats Clark like a child and refuses to get him medication for a situation that could easily be fixed. Jody helps Clark to understand that he needs to look at things differently.
Clark knows that he is attracted to men but that is not acceptable in his family—they hate gays as much as they love football and Clark has had to go through life denying who he really is. However, as he gets to know Jody, he cannot deny how he feels. Ashling builds the tension between the two men even before they meet so that when they do and feel what they feel for each other, we get quite a description that is filled with passion. The author is also able to communicate the pain that Clark feels as he deals with self-acceptance.
The real beauty of the book is the way it is paced and the way the characters are drawn so that they are totally realistic. Ashling also has a great handle on homophobia and how those who hate gays feel. This is not a new story and other writers have written about it many times but here it is the prose and the approach that makes this book so special.